Asbury’s Threedom event gives students opportunity to learn more about modern slave trade
By Meredith Schellin
A recent event hosted by a student organization exposed the dangers of modern slavery and human trafficking in Kentucky.
Threedom is a campus group which, according to its website, is, “A cooperative effort of Christian college students nation-wide to end slavery throughout the world.”
The group’s president, Laura MacFarland, felt that it is especially important that students were not only made aware of this issue internationally and nationally, but that they were also informed of the dangers of human trafficking in Kentucky.
“From my experience with talking to students either on this campus or when I give human trafficking presentations off campus, I’ve found that most people don’t think of it as a local issue, if they think of human trafficking at all,” MacFarland said.
“This year I’ve really tried to localize it—even offering an opportunity to get involved in efforts to fight human trafficking in Lexington and Nicholasville,” she added. “Just so students can get a better understanding of the fact that it really is in our own backyards, but [they] can also do something about it.”
The event hosted by Threedom freatured three speakers that all work in different government offices. They have chosen to use these offices to combat human trafficking.
Kentucky Senator Tom Buford spoke to students on how rampant this issue is in Kentucky, and more specifically in the local area and Louisville. He explained the average person will often fail to recongnize the signs that someone is being trafficked. This is especially true, he said, in these specific areas where many nationalities are represented due to the presence of two large universities, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, and simply because these are two of Kentucky’s larger cities.
Gretchen Hunt, an attorney who helped write the Human Trafficking Law and trains law enforcement to recognize and help victims, also spoke to students. She gave a brief summary of the act she helped write and the benefits it provides. The goal of this act is to allow children that are trafficked to be viewed as victims instead of being treated as criminals.
According to the information from Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking that students received at the event, children as young as six will be trafficked by a variety of people for a variety of reasons. This often happens because, as Hunt explained, one in seven American teenagers or children will run away or are seeking a reason to leave their current living environment.
Hunt told students that after three months of being a run-away, 90 percent of children or teens will turn to the sex industry for survival. The Human Trafficking Law is designed to protect these children and teens once they are found and rescued from their traffickers.
Hunt believes that treating them as victims instead of criminals is a small step on their road to recovery. “Every time you treat someone with dignity who has been marginalized you’re combating trafficking,” said Hunt.
Commissioner for the Department for Community Based Services Teresa James also addressed the students. James echoed Hunt’s views on the Human Trafficking Law. “To treat children as criminals,” James said, “all it does is victimize them again.”
She enlightened students on several characteristics someone who is being trafficked might exhibit such as depression, unexplained absences at school or work, hunger or malnutrition and tattoos or branding. “This is all of our responsibility,” James said. “These are all of our children and families and we need to take care of them.”
Buford, Hunt and James urged students to participate in groups and events that are striving to end human trafficking and to continue to seek education on this issue and the steps that are being taken to end it. They also encouraged students to educate their peers in order that more people might become aware and therefore more active in combating this issue.
Macfarland also agreed with the idea of awareness being one of the greatest ways to actively fight this issue but also gave students several ways they can actively fight this growing problem.
“We desperately need to be raising awareness,” Macfarland said. “ The first step is raising awareness of the human trafficking in general. Anywhere you can publicize it, talk about it, educate others- do it. Make a Facebook status, post a news article related to human trafficking, write to your legislature, write a blog post for Threedom, do your paper for class on an issue related to human trafficking. That is the first step to fighting this global issue.”